Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Why and How of How I Interact with Skeptics

The following response is to one “James” who asks some good questions and makes some fair observations regarding the way that I interact with skeptics in my evangelistic outreaches. I post this because it may provide some clarification on my strategy and general thinking about engaging people with the gospel. My response will be interspersed in blue font.

James writes,

“You write: ‘They want me to prove the Christian God's existence but I never let them get away with such since the Bible says that God's existence is a self-evident truth that is hardwired into all people.’ It's certainly reasonable to conclude that what we see was created. However, is it necessarily "logical" to conclude that the Creator is the God of the Bible?”

Thanks for your comments. Your question is a fair one and I'm glad to attempt an answer. In short, the answer is yes; unbelievers know that the Creator God exists but their knowledge of Him is incomplete and thus insufficient to save them from their sins. Romans 1:19-21 says,

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Rom 1:18-21 NAU - bolded portions for emphasis - Dusman)
Paul is teaching that that which is known about the Biblical, creator God "is evident within them" since He has "made it evident to them." How? Verse 20 tells us, "For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." In other words, the true God has made Himself evident to all people through the created order and that this is manifested not only as an external reality but also an internal awareness. Moreover, because His eternal power and divine nature has been "clearly seen" through what has been created they are left without excuse. Again, people intuitively know that the God exists as they see the created order and this external reality creates an internal awareness that the Creator exists. Also, verses 19 and 21 have a definite article before the word translated "God" in the Greek text, indicating that Paul is not referring to some nebulous deity, but instead this knowledge is of the one true God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Biblical God. As a matter of fact, after teaching that the message of the gospel is absolutely essential for the salvation of men, Paul reiterates what he said in Romans 1 when in Romans 10:18 he quotes King David's observation about all men's knowledge of the Creator God:

18 But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; "THEIR VOICE HAS GONE OUT INTO ALL THE EARTH, AND THEIR WORDS TO THE ENDS OF THE WORLD." (Rom 10:18 NAU)

In Paul's use of Psalm 19:4, David testified by the Holy Spirit that God's general revelation of Himself has reached the entire world. So, given what Paul says about the knowledge that God Himself has hardwired into the unbeliever, yes, it is logical to conclude that unbelievers who have never heard the gospel or read a Bible intuitively know that the Biblical Creator God exists.

However, let me be as clear as possible: According to Romans chapter one, people's knowledge of the Biblical Creator through natural revelation is not enough to save them but it is enough to damn them. Natural revelation does not and cannot tell you that God is a Trinity, that the second Person of that Triune being was incarnated in Bethlehem to eventually be offered up as a wrath-bearing atoning sacrifice for sinners, and that justification is by faith apart from works. All of that must come through special revelation; whether it be in the form of gospel preaching, prophecy, dreams, or being exposed to the teaching of the Bible. This is clear from Romans 10:14-17 and 1 Peter 1:23-25,

13 for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" 16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?" 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Rom 10:13-17 NAU)
23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, "ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, 25 BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER." And this is the word which was preached to you. (1Pe 1:23-25 NAU)
You go on to state,

"The God of the Bible spoke to people with an apparently audible voice. He raised the dead, parted the seas, made fire fall from Heaven. He spoke through a burning bush. His believers were told they could drink deadly poison and handle snakes without being harmed.
Nothing like these things occurs today. So, why can't we conclude that the Creator is the God of the Koran, or the "philosopher's God" who just created everything and then either fell asleep or lost interest and just went somewhere else?"

The reason why people reject the Biblical Creator God and trade Him in for an idol is because they are "suppressing the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18). Apart from being exposed to God's special revelation and Holy Spirit regeneration, people will always degenerate into idolatry. The Muslim god, the unbelieving philosopher's god, or the Deist's view are all different versions of the same problem: idolatry. Idolatry is the default spiritual status of all people if they are left to natural revelation alone: "For they exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worshiped and served the created thing rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25 - my translation). So, given the inherent depravity within the natural men, if they are left to natural revelation alone and are not regenerated by the Spirit, they may indeed "conclude that the Creator is the God of the Koran, or the "philosopher's God" who just created everything and then either fell asleep or lost interest and just went somewhere else?"

Apart from God's grace, this is the lot for the unsaved person (1 Cor. 2:14). This is why they need the gospel.

Again, thanks for your comments. I think some of the confusion lies in the fact that I am summarizing in my outreach reports. Much of what you read is the "meat and potatoes" of a much longer conversation that took place. Sometimes my summaries leave out information that may leave you thinking that I short shrifted someone or that I wasn't completely honest in my presentation. That is certainly understandable.

No comments:

Post a Comment